“I like to connect people together so that they can create something great,” says Winda Malika Siregar of her life as a socialite with a mission to help preserve Indonesia’s cultural heritage. Born on September 24, 1979, this graceful mother-of-two (seven-year-old twins Avisennha and Avajasmine) and science and mathematics graduate is a truly impressive lady. Having a wide network of connections, she is a beautiful and fashionable VIP guest at many high-profile social events.
The day Prestige met up with her at the splendid Rumah Morphosa in Kemang, Winda had plenty of stories to tell, especially about why she doesn’t mind asking people to help her to revitalise museums in Jakarta. She arrived casually dressed in her usual colour of black. Along with loose jeans and white sandals, she sported a Guns N’ Roses t-shirt that she brought home from the hard rock band’s Not In This Lifetime Tour in Tokyo.
“I have only two pairs of flat shoes,” she tells us of her glamorous approach to style. “I love boots and stilletos.” Her hip-length black tresses, which she assures us are “100 percent real, people actually pulled my hair to check whether I had extensions done”, frame her face gracefully. As she begins to converse, her outgoing and friendly personality shows through. A natural-born leader, Winda is nicknamed “Mother” by her friends and colleagues.
“At first, I am somewhat apprehensive in being labelled a socialite. In my opinion, a socialite is someone who spends more than 50 percent of her time doing volunteer work with the aim of improving society and creating a better future,” she declares. “She is someone who realises that the world needs her contribution. I am by no means the art-expert, nor am I blessed with unlimited financial resources. I am however privileged to have known people who are such. But someone has got to do the share of hard labour, to connect all the dots, to link all these intelligence and resources together to create something purposeful. So I feel contented if I can be that workhorse, a “socialite” who uses her social network for the benefit of others. ‘Leave this world a little better than when you found it’, that’s my motto.”
The focus of Winda’s work these days is museums. She is one of the founders and directors of Mitra Museum Jakarta, an initiative aimed at revitalising 11 of the city’s institutions. Among the group’s members are Charmie Hamami of Christie’s, Deborah Iskandar of ISA Art Advisory and Jasmine Prasetio of Sotheby’s.
“We started work in September last year and we have the support of about 45 people from different backgrounds who share one common goal: improving the state of Jakarta’s museums for the next generation. It’s all voluntary work, and I’m very happy to do it.”
Mitra Museum Jakarta aims to ensure that the city’s museums fulfil the role they were intended to carry out, as vibrant centres of education, entertainment and recreation, as well as sources of historical, artistic and cultural knowledge and experience. “The foundation assists the museums’ development, from infrastructure, management and human resources to curatorial content and public programmes,” Winda explains.
Last August, the foundation raised funds for the Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics’ refurbishment. This was thanks to an exhibition, “Unveiling Ja(Ya)karta”, of works by Srihadi Soedarsono, one of Indonesia’s most distinguished artists. “That museum is a special place for me,” says Winda. “I had my wedding (to property developer Aji Gunardi) there in 2008.”
Winda’s interest in cultural preservation began after she graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor’s degree in Science and Mathematics. She first became involved in Jakarta Old Town Kotaku (JOK), an NGO that is working on revitalising the Kota area, initiated by her mother, Miranda Goeltom, the economist, author and former Senior Deputy Governor of Bank Indonesia. She is also a director in Artsip Jakarta, which trains local youth to create art in public places, such as when the institution organised Art workshops in 50 RPTRA.
“I was born into a family of scientific educators who loved art and culture,” says Winda, whose musical tastes range from Rachmaninoff to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. Her late grandmother was an opera soloist during the Dutch colonial period. Her mother plays a pivotal role at Yayasan Seni Rupa Indonesia, Himpunan Keramik Indonesia and the Nusantara Symphony Orchestra. Winda now sits on the Art Stage Board of Young Collectors.
“My grandfather was a teacher, my mother is a professor of economics and my father (Oloan P. Siahaan) was a university chancellor,” Winda goes on. “My sister (Ermanda Saskia Siregar) is a lecturer in neuroscience at Universitas Indonesia. We all have a passion for education and teaching.
“When I was six years old, I remember going to a neighbourhood near my home to give children singing and reading lessons. We put costumes on and gave a performance. It was fun. As I grew older, I realised that my passion for learning and teaching was growing stronger. In my family events, I always write a programme book for the guests about the traditions and customs involved. My mother always took me the museums when I was little, and I always love to retell and share what I learned.
“I love numbers and I like to plan things 10 steps ahead. My mother gave me the best advice: ‘It’s fine to pursue a degree in science and then to have a career in the arts. Your scientific background will help you a lot’, she said. She was right. I rarely panic in a stressful situation because I know how to calculate my steps. After graduating from university, I worked in a private equity house for a period. But to be honest, I didn’t like it. I feel uncomfortable using my networks when it is done for profit, unlike when I use it to do voluntary work.”
She has worked in fashion journalism and as a consultant to designers. Her amazing wardrobe collection, which is mostly in black, stunning pieces by designers of the calibre of Yohji Yamamoto, Maison Margiela, Vivienne Westwood, Herve Leroux and Haider Ackermann. “They are often borrowed for photo shoots,” she smiles. “I catalogued my fashion pieces to make it easier for people who borrow them. When I shop, I do mental calculations on the number of iterations a piece of clothing can be worn.”
She was excited to have the shoot done in Rumah Morphosa, since she is a close friend of the owner, Atmadja Tjiptobiantoro. She helped him in promoting his East Java’s Kaliandra Foundation, with the majestic Villa Leduk and the organic farm. “He is a great example of what a philanthropist should be. I know people are drawn to the grandeur of Villa Leduk, but I think his passion to ensure a sustainable environment and enabling the village people that surrounds Mount Arjuna to survive after he is long gone, is the reason why I found Kaliandra Foundation awe-inspiring.”
So with the majority of her time devoted to volunteer works, how does she manage to stay put? “Luckily, I have a husband who supports me in everything I do. And last year, my friend Sherly Worth asked me to join her at Codeltra Asia, her professional and personal image development company. I like her idea about teaching people on how to create their own personal branding. After receiving a certificate to teach from The Association of Image Consultants International, I was qualified to teach students how to present themselves in public.”
“Other than that, I am a President Commissioner of Imagerie International, which produces and curates photographic and video exhibitions. I devote my free time to my children and husband, and I love watching concerts. I don’t think I can live without music.”
On the other hand, her passion in education made her took other courses, such as Political Economy and Game Theory & Competitive Strategy, all at The London School of Economics and Political Science. She also took Environmental Science at University of California, Berkeley and Philosophy and The Science of Thinking at Monash University.
“Right now, I want to erase the idea that museums are intimidating and exclusive. Museums should be fun. Kudos to the museums in Batu, and to my friends at Museum MACAN for setting a great example. I hope they will inspire others.”
What’s next for Winda? “I’m applying to take a certificate course at Harvard so that I’ll be formally qualified to teach mathematics,” she tells us. “I hope that with this, and with by learning from all the museum experts I have come across, I shall be able to pursue my goal of building an indigenous and interactive science museum. Did you know that the Batak tribe has a specific fractal geometry embedded in their Gorga house patterns? Isn’t it exciting if we can retell the stories to our children? For the next three years, I will be fund raising and looking to find educators to fulfil this dream.”